by Nikki Elliott
For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another.
I discovered a love for hot yoga this past summer. Most mornings I woke up at 4:30 am to drive—or race, rather—to my favorite classes at a yoga studio downtown before going to the office. This new schedule was an adjustment, but after a few weeks I did not mind the early mornings, and I looked forward to starting each day on my mat with downward dogs and vinyasas. It was a time that allowed for much needed meditation, self-reflection, goal setting, and prayer; it was my “me” time and often times my “me and God” time.
One particular morning, the instructor set the intention of our practice as “community.” While I appreciated the idea and her sense of enthusiasm for turning this class of sweaty, half-asleep yogis into friends, I was more intent on how I could take the next hour to focus on my own practice with an intention more along the lines of gratitude, balance, or patience. It was about twenty minutes into class, all of us were attempting our Warrior III pose, sweat pouring out of places we did not even know could sweat, and the instructor—in her efforts to reinforce “community”—asked everyone to reach out and hold hands with their neighbor while holding their pose. Was she serious?? This same question seemed to be going through everyone else’s mind too as we all made nervous side-glances at one another and hesitantly reached out our hands. I could not help but laugh as I clasped hands with my high school best friend’s dad who just so happened to be on the mat right next to me. I am still not sure if it was the additional support in a difficult yoga pose or the shared laughter among us, but despite the initial hesitation and the brief moment of comic awkwardness, I do not think any of us can deny the experience of “community” in class that day.
In the busyness of our everyday lives, it is easy to become so consumed by our own priorities and worries that we shy away from the camaraderie and support of others. I think back to that yoga class and how resistant I was to embracing the instructor’s intention of “community” to instead focus on my own intention, breath, and practice. Even though there is often a tendency to stand out, to be the first, or to be the best, God challenges us to embrace what makes us one, what makes us a family of brothers and sisters, and to live with a sense of “community” rather than a sense of “me and them.” Father Henri Nouwen, a priest and spiritual writer, once wrote, “what counts are not the special and unique accomplishments that we do in life that make us different from others, but the basic human experiences of sadness and joy, pain and healing, which make us part of the same humanity.” We were all created by God, and are all in search of God; if we carry each other in this faith journey, then life’s challenges—and maybe those tough yoga poses—will be much easier to bear.
Dear Lord, help me to always embrace opportunities to be in communion with others. Let me never forget that what unites us in our humanity is the desire to grow deeper in faith on our journey to You. Namaste, Amen.